Air India bomb maker loses perjury conviction appeal
B.C.’s highest court has upheld a perjury conviction for Air India bomber Inderjit Singh Reyat, who repeatedly lied at the trial of two men who were acquitted in the worst case of aviation terrorism before 9/11.
Three judges of the B.C. Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed the man's bid for a new trial, cementing Reyat's nine-year sentence. It's believed to be the longest perjury sentence in Canadian history.
Perviz Madon, whose husband Sam was among the 329 people killed when an Air India plane was bombed on June 23, 1985, said she's glad Reyat is "paying" for lying under oath.
"That's justice for us," she said, shortly after learning of the decision. "Whatever justice we get, we'll take it."
Reyat, 59, was a Crown witness at the 2003 trial of Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, who were acquitted of mass murder and conspiracy in the bombing of Air India Flight 182. Some 329 people, mostly Canadian citizens, were killed when the plane went down after leaving a Montreal airport.
Reyat's testimony was part of a deal that saw him plead guilty to manslaughter in the bombing of the plane and receive a controversial five-year sentence. He also served an earlier 10-year sentence for manslaughter for the deaths of two airport baggage handlers in Tokyo that happened on the same day.
Reyat was accused of lying 19 times at Malik's and Bagri's trial, when he insisted he knew nothing about the conspiracy.
A jury convicted Reyat of perjury in November 2010, but his lawyers appealed. They argued the judge made a mistake when he told the jurors they only needed to conclude Reyat lied in just one of those 19 instances, and that they didn't need to agree on which lie he told.
Reyat's lawyer, Ian Donaldson, told the Appeal Court that the perjury verdict was unfair because the jury may not have been unanimous. He argued the jury should have been directed to agree on at least one false statement.
The Appeal Court judges disagreed.
"The trial judge did not err in his instructions to the jury," Chief Justice Lance Finch wrote in the decision.
"The necessary elements or ingredients for the offence of perjury are entirely consistent among the 19 particulars to the indictment, and there was evidence on which the jury could have found each to be proven."
Until Reyat's conviction, the longest perjury sentence ever handed down in Canada was six years for a case in Alberta.
Madon said she doesn't ever expect to gain complete closure, knowing Reyat will one day be free, and that others who masterminded the plot have not been sent to prison.
"But I just hope he serves his time and we can get on with our lives," she said.
She added that after nearly three decades, she doesn't have much hope anyone will be punished for orchestrating the bombing.
"I just need to let it go and if something happens, something happens. But I don't think about it on an ongoing basis. My life has moved on and so it should."
It's believed a suitcase bomb was loaded onto a plane at Vancouver International Airport, then transferred to the Air India flight that plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ireland, while en route to London.
An hour later, a bomb destined from another Air India plane exploded at a Tokyo airport, killing two people.
The Crown's theory was that the bomb plots were hatched by B.C.-based Sikhs, seeking revenge against the Indian government, which owned Air India. The Crown alleged the bombings were an attempt at revenge after the Indian army was ordered to storm Sikhism's holiest shrine, called the Golden Temple.